Music can be a source of pleasure and contentment, but research has also shown that there are many different psychological benefits as well. The notion that music can influence your thoughts, feelings, and behavior probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise. If you’ve ever felt pumped up while listening to your favorite fast-paced rock anthem or been moved to tears by a tender live performance, then you easily understand the power of music to impact moods and even inspire action.
The psychological effects of music can be more powerful and wide-ranging than you might assume. Music therapy is an intervention sometimes utilised to promote emotional health, help patients cope with stress, and boost psychological well-being. Some even suggest that your taste in music can provide insight into different aspects of your personality. Music can relax the mind, energize the body, and even help people better manage pain. So what other potential benefits might music provide?
Music Can Improve Your Cognitive Performance?
Research suggests that background music, or music that is played while the listener is primarily focused on another activity, can improve performance on cognitive tasks in older adults. Specifically, one study found that playing more upbeat music led to improvements in processing speed while both upbeat and downbeat music led to benefits in memory.
So the next time you are working on a task, consider turning on a little music in the background if you are looking for a boost in your mental performance. Consider choosing instrumental tracks rather than those with complex lyrics, which might end up being more distracting.
Music Can Reduce Stress:
It has long been suggested that music can help reduce or manage stress. Consider the cottage industry centered on meditative music created to soothe the mind and inducing relaxation. Fortunately, this is one trend supported by research. Listening to music can be an effective way to cope with stress.
In one 2013 study, participants took part in one of three conditions before being exposed to a stressor and then taking a psychosocial stress test. Some participants listened to relaxing music, others listened to the sound of rippling water, and the rest received no auditory stimulation.
The results suggested that listening to music had an impact on the human stress response, particularly the autonomic nervous system. Those who had listened to music tended to recover more quickly following a stressor.
Music Might Help You Eat Less:
One of the most surprising psychological benefits of music is that it might be a helpful weight loss tool. If you are trying to lose weight, listening to mellow music and dimming the lights might help you achieve your goals.
According to one study, people who ate at low-lit restaurants where soft music was played consumed 18 percent less food than those who ate in other restaurants. Why? The researchers suggest that the music and lighting help create a more relaxed setting. Since the participants were more relaxed and comfortable, they may have consumed their food more slowly and have been more aware of when they began to feel full.
You might try putting this into practice by playing soft music at home while you eat dinner. By creating a relaxing setting, you may be more likely to eat slowly and, therefore, feel fuller sooner.
Music Can Improve Your Memory:
Lots of students enjoy listening to music while they study, but is that such a great idea? Some feel like listening to their favorite music as they study improves memory, while others contend that it simply serves as a pleasant distraction.
The research suggests that it may help, but it depends upon a variety of factors which might include the type of music, the listener’s enjoyment of that music, and even how musically well-trained the listener may be.
One study found that musically trained students tended to perform better on learning tests when they listened to neutral music, possibly because this type of music was less distracting and easier to ignore.
Musically naive students, on the other hand, learned better when listening to positive music, possibly because these songs elicited more positive emotions without interfering with memory formation.
Another study found that participants learning a new language showed improvement in their knowledge and abilities when they practiced singing new words and phrases versus just regular speaking or rhythmic speaking.
So while music may have an effect on memory, results may vary depending on the individual. If you tend to find yourself distracted by music, you may be better off learning in silence or with neutral tracks playing in the background.
Music Can Help Manage Pain:
Research has shown that music can be very helpful in the management of pain. One study of fibromyalgia patients found that those who listened to music for just one hour a day experienced a significant reduction in pain compared to those in a control group.
In the study, patients with fibromyalgia were assigned to either an experimental group that listened to music once a day for four weeks or a control group that received no treatment. At the end of the four-week period, those who had listened to music each day experienced significant reductions in feelings of pain and depression. Such results suggest that music therapy could be an important tool in the treatment of chronic pain.
A 2015 review of research on the effects of music on pain management found that patients who listened to music before, during, or even after surgery experienced less pain and anxiety than those who did not listen to music. While listening to music at any point in time was effective, the researchers noted that listening to music pre-surgery resulted in better outcomes.
The review looked at data from more than 7,000 patients and found that music listeners also required less medication to manage their pain. There was also a slightly greater, though not statistically significant, improvement in pain management results when patients were allowed to select their own music.
“More than 51 million operations are performed every year in the USA and around 4.6 million in England,” explained the study’s lead author, Dr. Catherine Meads of Brunel University in a press release. “Music is a non-invasive, safe, cheap intervention that should be available to everyone undergoing surgery.”
Music has the power to inspire and entertain, but it also has powerful psychological effects that can improve your health and well-being. Instead of thinking of music as pure entertainment, consider some of the major mental benefits of incorporating music into your everyday life. You might find that you feel more motivated, happy, and relaxed as a result.